LCO concert both rousing and routine

Joe Pfender

The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra put on another high quality concert last Saturday night in the Memorial Chapel. The ensemble played diverse selections which called for many different kinds of instrumentation, making variety a notable theme of the evening.
The first selection was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, a familiar piece to many veterans of the Conservatory. With very limited instrumentation – only eleven players in total – the choice could be resented as too safe. It is standard repertoire, and could be considered an unengaging choice for a concert in 2005. Despite this disadvantage, the musicians put on a polished performance, proving that this classic work should not yet be relegated to the past.
Next on the program was a contemporary work by Tully Cathey, a composer from Utah whose works have been played by the Modern Mandolin Quartet and were featured in the original soundtrack for the PBS feature entitled “Utah: A Portrait.”
Before conducting “Lines I for Strings,” Robert Debbaut mentioned his own history conducting Cathey’s work. He has a working relationship with Cathey, and in May of 2003 he conducted the Ukrainian and Polish premieres of Cathey’s “Disposable City.”
This piece was a logical second step for the concert, with a larger string section and an extreme shift in style. To a more or less casual listener, the subtleties of “Lines” were more obvious than were those of the Brandenburg Concerto, simply because Cathey’s music is far less ingrained in every listener’s ear than is the music of Bach.
Finishing out the first half of the concert was Bla Bart¢k’s “Romanian Folk Dances.” A collection of folk dances that Bart¢k likely transcribed himself, the piece illustrates a huge focus of his career. He spent a good deal of his time in his native Hungary, traveling and recording much of the national folk music he could find with fellow composer Zolt n Kod ly. This piece in particular sounds more like orchestrations of folk tunes than like a classical work compositionally similar to the folk song style. With a minimal wind section, the piece had the biggest sound and the most vivacity of the first three pieces, making it the obvious choice for the closer.
The second half of the concert was entirely devoted to Schubert’s Symphony No. 5. It was a great piece of music, but the performance was noticeably less polished than that of the first half. The group had pervasive trouble with rhythmic cohesion, and to some extent this distracted the listener from the dramatic moments in the piece. Despite this problem, however, the night was certainly a success.